Looking over what our delicious Associated Press has proffered for the morning:
The government says the nation's unemployment rate bolted to 7.2 percent in December, the highest since early 1993, as employers slashed 524,000 jobs. The Labor Department's report underscores the terrible toll of the deepening recession and highlights the hard task President-elect Barack Obama faces in resuscitating the flat-lined economy. For all of 2008, the economy lost 2.6 million jobs. That was the most since 1945, when nearly 2.8 million jobs were lost, although the number of jobs in the U.S. has more than tripled since then.
What's important about lines such as those above is recent memory. You all remember 1993, right? The bread lines, the dust bowl in the midwest. It was a time when the nation had to pull together and consider pulling the lever for a Republican legislature. Hard to fathom in these days, I know.
Last night as I was browsing the interweb, I came across this entertainment/celebrity news show that was streamed on the web. There were clips associated with the main show, where the behind-the-scenes people were discussing how inexpensive the outfits on the show were. Several things struck me: 1. Someone is funding such a venture. 2. They have advertisers who think people want to buy stuff. 3. People are still advocating shopping, but just on a bargain scale. 4. When are they finally going to discuss Jennifer Aniston's bikini?
The more I read these doom and gloom stories, the more I realize how good we've got it. I don't mean to whitewash -- what is happening is certainly tragic and jarring, particularly for those whose retirements were riding on the booming economy. But when economic hard times befall less fortunate countries, they have a hard time finding, let alone buying, food, finding shelter, and generally being safe from mob violence. The institutions of their civil society begin to break down.
The only mobs we're going to see in the next few weeks are those descending on Washington to (a.) celebrate the inauguration of a new president, and (b.) protest for the rights of the unborn.
This is not the behavior of a nation teetering on the brink of desparation. It is, however, a nation eager to see someone "fix" the problem, a prospect which is altogether disconcerting. We've been in tough economic times and come out of them before unscathed. The political reforms, on the other hand, have not been helpful. In other words, the political, not the economic, is the darkest cloud on the horizon.
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